Your Passion - More Q&A's with Employees

Your Passion - More Q&A's with Employees

Meaningful Work. Inspiring Colleagues.

Learn more about USO employees and their experiences in various regions throughout the world.

Arlington

Christy Cha

Christy Cha

Marketing and Communications Intern | Arlington, Va.

School: University of Virginia

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO Career Development Program?

A This program was the perfect opportunity for me to explore two fields that I am interested in: Marketing and Communications.

Q What projects did you work on during your internship?

A USO Clips, center websites, ON★PATROL, social media

Q What did you enjoy most during your internship?

A Working with amazing people to serve our nation's heroes.

 
Erin Johnson

Erin Johnson

Programs Manager, USO Warrior & Family Care | Arlington, Va.

Hometown: Maple Valley, WA

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO team?

A I was a Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy for ten years. I had planned on making the military my career, but life had other plans for me. In 2009, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After nearly a full year of treatment, I was medically retired. I really struggled with choosing a new career path, but knew very early on in my job search that I needed to find a job that allowed me to continue serving others. It's all the more meaningful that I have a personal connection with the wounded, ill and injured troops that my programs support.

Q What are your colleagues like in the Arlington office?

A I really enjoy being around my colleagues; I'm not sure how many people can honestly say that. Everyone that I've come across realizes the importance of their job and the positive impact they have on our service members. I don't personally have the opportunity to interact with our USO volunteers, but I'm in awe of them. We wouldn't be able to provide the quality programming that we offer without their invaluable support, and I'm very grateful for them.

Q What motivates you to come into work every day?

A As a former "ill" service member, I have a unique perspective. I take personal pride in making the difficult transition into civilian life easier for our wounded, ill and injured service members. I also am so impressed by the rest of the USO team; their dedication to lifting the spirits of our military, even though many have no personal military experience, is admirable. The USO is an organization full of people doing good. And the world needs more good.

Q Can you describe your USO experience in three words?

A Exciting. Uplifting. Humbling.

 
Paul Michiels

Paul Michiels

Human Resources Intern | Arlington, Va.

School: George Mason University

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO Career Development Program?

A The USO has great people, a great mission, and a great work environment.

Q What projects did you work on during your internship?

A I helped create the training module: "The Manager's Guide to Onboarding New Employees."

Q What did you enjoy most during your internship?

A I enjoyed participating in the Honor Flight at Reagan Airport. Seeing the tearful smiles and looks of surprise on the faces of those veterans as they rounded the terminal to receive a warm welcome of thanks is a special memory for me and undeniable proof that the USO mission is a worthy one.

 
Shevaun O'Neill

Shevaun O'Neill

Development Intern | Arlington, Va.

School: University of Maryland - College Park

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO Career Development Program?

A The USO is such an amazing company with an even more amazing goal, and I was really excited to get to be a part of that! The opportunity to work with people who wanted to support the USO, and helping them do so, has been an awesome one.

Q What projects did you work on during your internship?

A Since I've been here, I've been able to work on a huge variety of projects. Being an intern for the Fundraising and Development department, I've had the opportunity to work both aspects – the fundraising side and the development side. I've been able to call those who have volunteered to host a BBQ for the Troops. On these phone calls, I've been able to hear all about different ways to plan the even, and have even been able to help brainstorm ideas for the events themselves! I've also gotten great experience with the financial side of fundraising! I've sorted and deposited the checks the USO receives, and entered the information into our system. Everything I've done has really been such a great real-world experience.

Q What did you enjoy most during your internship?

AI most enjoyed the people that I've gotten to work with during my internship. I really enjoyed being in an office environment with such a great team to help me and teach me all about the USO and the development team. Whether it's been daily coffee runs or learning about the fundraising programs we use, I've always enjoyed the company of the team.

 
Michael Quang

Michael Quang

Finance Intern | Arlington, Va.

School: George Mason University

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO Career Development Program?

A I had the chance to work with the accounting team at USO Arlington. I was taught how to use Great Plain for doing account receivables and payables. Besides that, I had a chance to work on the analyst side where I got to create reports based on the data I researched online.

Q What did you enjoy most during your internship?

A The best part about working at USO is the staff. The entire staff is friendly and willing to help me with my tasks. I don't think my experience would have been the same had it not been for them.

 
Laura Benchea

Laura Benchea

Proposal Development Specialist | Arlington, Va.

Alma Mater: Ohio State University

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO team?

A The USO has been around for over 70 years, and truly provides goodness to troops and their families. That was all I had ever heard about the USO, and when the opportunity came up to work here, I knew that I could trust the organization and that the work would be rewarding.

Q What motivates you to come to work every day?

A Helping people. I am someone who wants to change the world. And I think that starts with taking every little opportunity to change the lives of people around you. At the USO, I know that we are helping people who defend my freedom in this country and I want to commit my time to giving back to them.

Q Have there been any defining moments for you while working at the USO?

A One day I was walking through the reception area and noticed two women walk in from outside. They walked right up to the reception and donated cash. They said that they were walking outside and found it on the sidewalk, looked up, saw the USO and came right in to donate it. Seeing the goodness of complete strangers really impacted me, and also made me very proud of the stellar reputation of the USO.

 
Will Schouten

Will Schouten

HR Coordinator | Arlington, Va.

Hometown: St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Q What do you enjoy most about working for the USO?

A What I enjoy the most about working at the USO is that everything we do is mission driven. Every action and decision is conscious of the efforts to meet the goal of lifting the spirits of America's troops and their families.

Q What are your colleagues like in the Arlington office?

A I have colleagues from all walks of life here at the USO but what is amazing is that no matter what our differences are, the things that we all share are a common purpose and awareness of the needs of our troops and their families. The mission is what unites us along with a solid set of core values that every employee is expected to live by.

Q What does a typical day at the USO look like for you?

A A typical day at the USO is like a roller coaster ride - ups, downs, unexpected turns, but mainly thrills and excitement. You get to meet so many people especially at the HR Meet and Greet during orientation week.

Q Can you describe your USO experience in three words?

A Integrity. Grit. Gratitude.

 
Joyce Young-Jones

Joyce Young-Jones

Operations Coordinator | Arlington, Va.

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO team?

A I came to the USO as a temporary employee for only two weeks, and the impact of the mission was enough for me to realize this is where I should be. I became permanent three months later and have been here for thirteen and a half years.

Q What motivates you to come to work every day?

A Knowing that we are helping our service members and their families with our many programs and services is the motivating factor for me to come to work every day.

Q Have there been any defining moments for you at the USO?

A It happened after 9/11. I assisted the public with hundreds of questions as to how they could help our service members. We coordinated with the DoD on how the public could correspond with our troops. We initiated the Operation USO Care Package Program, USO Phone Home Program and opened centers to accommodate our service members and their families. We also provided assistance with Operation Iraqi Freedom and Hurricane Katrina.

Q Can you describe your USO experience in three words?

A Exhilarating, humbling and rewarding.

 
Yuri Ellingson

Yuri Ellingson

Staff Accountant | Arlington, Va.

Hobbies: culinary tourism, traveling, watching movies

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO team?

A I am a Navy spouse and I can't think of a better place to work than the USO!

Q What motivates you to come to work every day?

A The USO mission. As a spouse of a service member, working for the USO is much more than a job for me. I rarely have opportunities to interact directly with service members because of the nature of the department I belong to, but assisting the USO employees who directly support service members makes me feel that I also contribute to them ultimately.

Q Have there been any defining moments for you while working at the USO?

A There are too many! The Programs department shares photographs of service members who are stationed in Afghanistan or Iraq with a big smile on their face holding USO items or photographs of toddlers touching their mother's or father's face on a TV screen while watching a United Through Reading DVD. These are the moments that show the impact of the USO to service members and their families.I cannot tell you how many times I have cried after seeing those pictures and reading thank you letters from the USO beneficiaries!

 
Juston Reynolds

Juston Reynolds

Programs Manager | Arlington, Va.

Hometown: Alexandria, Va.

Q What do you enjoy most about working for the USO?

A I enjoy everything that we do. From little things like giving out a cookie, or delivering a $300,000 piece of equipment. It's never the same and it keeps my mind active and looking out for the next greatest thing that we can do for our service members and their families.

Q What motivates you to come to work every day?

A To put it simply, I like knowing that I make a difference in someone's life on many different levels.The things that the USO does for the troops and their familiesare amazing. We have a long tradition of uplifting the spirits of the troops, and I hope to keep that tradition going even stronger than it has been.We work hard for the smallest and the biggest smiles.

Q Can you tell us a little about your colleagues at the Arlington office?

A We have one of the most diverse groups of people and that is what makes us strong.We all have different backgrounds and come from a wide variety of cultures and beliefs. Luckily for us, that's never been an issue. In fact, we take those differences to ensure that we provide goodness to in all aspects of what we do and can do.

Q What is on the horizon for you at the USO?

A To continue to make a difference and ensure that the USO remains a leader among troops and their families. There is still so much more to do. Now back to work!

 
Pamela Perkins-Dwyer

Pamela Perkins-Dwyer

Regional Director of Development | Arlington, Va.

Alma Mater: Howard University & Boston University

Q What do you enjoy most about working for the USO?

A Seeing my efforts make a difference in the lives of so many military personnel. I love the challenge of raising money to support a cause that I believe in. I get the opportunity to speak with people all over the country about our organization and what we do. I have found that so many people have heard of the USO but many of them are totally unaware of all that we do.

Q What motivates you to come to work every day?

A Knowing that my successes put smiles on the faces of our military members and their families, and knowing that my work is truly appreciated.

Q What does a typical day at the USO look like for you?

A Hectic, challenging, demanding, and gratifying. With six centers in six different states, juggling the many time-sensitive tasks can be difficult. But, I always remember that the troops are counting on me to be successful.

Q Have there been any defining moments for you at the USO?

A Understanding my veteran husband's perspective for the first time was a defining moment for me. My husband has shared many stories about his wartime service in the Navy, but after I started working for the USO, I came home one evening after traveling for a few days and I looked him in the eye and said, "Thank you for your service," and he gave me a BIG hug and said,"Wow!" I had never said that to him because I never knew to, or that it was appropriate to say that to anyone in the military. They all really appreciate those five simple words.

 
Jonathan Matthews

Jonathan Matthews

Director of Logistics & Facilities | Arlington, Va.

Hometown: Liverpool, England

Q Have there been any defining moments for you at the USO?

A August 2007, Camp Buehring, Kuwait: watching a young Sergeant perform a 'Tonto: Jump On It!' song and dance routine as part of his United Through Reading session for his 2yr old son in the only space available – my office! It was performed with such joy and abandon. Although a hilarious privilege to watch, the realization that a lot of stars, both unfortunate and fortunate, had to align for me to be able to help him, miles from anywhere, made a lasting impression. I knew then that working at the USO would be more than just my next job.

Q What is a typical day like at the USO?

A It's cliché but there really is no such thing as a typical day at the USO. Whether you are collaborating on a long-term project, reacting to an emergency request for help or assisting with the wide variety of donations the USO receives, there is always something new and challenging to tackle.

Q Can you tell us a little about your colleagues in the Arlington office?

A They're a fun-loving group of people that have a real sense of pride in the work that they do and are always willing to help.

Q What is on the horizon for you at the USO?

A Short term: Completion of the Warrior and Family Center construction projects at Fort Belvoir, VA and NSA Bethesda, MD. Medium Term: Continue my personal development by obtaining a Master's degree in logistics. Long Term: Develop an enterprise-wide resource management system that will improve the USO supply chain.

 
Sarah Kelley

Sarah Kelley

Manager, Field Operations | Arlington, Va.

Alma Mater: Miami University

Q Why did you decide to become a part of the USO team?

A To support my generation while they are serving on active duty. These soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen that are being deployed all over the world, not just Afghanistan, are my classmates, friends and neighbors. Their volunteer sacrifice matters and I appreciate them. It's a joy to know the work I do may make a positive impact on their lives while they work to preserve my way of life. I am overjoyed to learn of someone I went to school with using a USO center and finding comfort there.

Q What's a typical day for you at the USO?

A Is never the same! There is always a new idea, new challenge, or new world issue that has an impact on the field and what they are doing. Some days I am working with my partners in the Development department to raise funds or coordinate a delivery of in-kind products, the next day I could be building budgets, planning a world-wide conference, or passing on good news in Africa that we're renewing internet service and new video games are on the way!

Q Have there been any defining moments for you at the USO?

A Transitioning families of the fallen through the airport on their way to Dover to witness the dignified transfer of their loved one. There is absolutely nothing I can do to take away their pain, but I can make sure they get off their connecting flight and on the next flight with ease. It's the most helpful I've ever felt, to take a family from one terminal to the other, pick up some drinks and snacks for them, and hug them as they board their next flight. As one father once told me, "We couldn't have navigated this airport; we wouldn't have even begun to known how to do this without you." I'll never forget that moment.

 
Titus Yao

Titus Yao

HR Generalist, Pacific Region | Arlington, Va.

Hobbies: cooking, fitness and watching college sports

Q Why did you decide to become a part of the USO team?

A I wanted to join the USO to make a difference. I have such a respect for our military and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to serve in the way I love most, HR.

Q What does a typical day at the USO look like for you?

A No such thing! It's exciting to me to discover what new way I can help develop my fellow co-workers to become better teammates. Whether it's through finding new talent to add to our team or coaching employees through difficult times, my work always varies because people always vary. I love the variety and wouldn't want it any other way.

Q What motivates you to come to work every day?

A Working with such passionate and selfless people who are dedicated to the mission is very humbling and rewarding. I've learned so much and continue to grow every day, I can't wait to see what I'll experience next!

Q What do you enjoy most about working for the USO?

A I get to do the work I love and with a team that cares about my development every day. Working for the USO continually challenges me to become a better HR professional. I'm proud to be part of something much bigger than myself.

 
Chris Miles

Chris Miles

Manager, Online Development | Arlington, Va.

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO team?

A Growing up, I associated the USO with entertainers heading overseas to show our troops a good time. When my career path presented the opportunity to work for the USO, I was interested in learning more about its mission and how I could help. After discovering the breadth of programs and the broad reach of USO locations worldwide that are all dedicated to raising the spirits of our troops and their families, I was sure that the USO was the organization for me.

Q What motivates you to come to work every day?

A I firmly believe that to be happy with your career, you have to love what you do and believe in the mission of your organization. Knowing that every day I come to work, I am raising funds online to support our troops and helping educate the public about the USO's many programs and services is more than enough motivation.

Q What does a typical day at the USO look like for you?

A A day at the USO within Online Development involves working with a passionate mix of people worldwide to develop and execute campaigns that support our programs and provide awareness. Whether it's collaborating on a new email campaign idea with a program manager in Arlington or working with Operations to find out what our centers in Afghanistan need help funding or delving into analytics in order to provide a better experience for visitors online, every day at the USO is a new and interesting endeavor.

 

Southwest Asia

Jason Lewis

Jason Lewis

Programs Coordinator/Duty Manager | USO FOB Fenty, Afghanistan 

Hobbies: golf, excising, spending time with friends and family, traveling

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO team?

A I was in college at Purdue, slogging through semester after semester, and I found the opportunity online to join the USO. Having served in the Marines, I was no stranger to their mission or what they stand for. I felt that I could bring a lot to the table with my interpersonal skills and my close understanding of military customs & courtesies. I also went on a couple deployments as a Marine, so I knew what to expect. I knew I would be away from home, but am glad to say that I found a family within our organization. There are a lot of great people who work for the USO, and I'm very thankful that they gave me the opportunity to join the team. It has been a really great experience.

Q What motivates you to come to work every day?

A We get to have fun! I can't think of a job out there where its employees have so much fun! There's always something different going on each day and we get to be creative. My boss makes working here really easy too because she gives me all the tools I need to be successful. We also have a lot of great volunteers who I rely on daily. The people here are just awesome.

Q What do you enjoy most about working for the USO?

A The USO is just a great organization from the top down. In my center, my boss keeps things organized and gives me the room to be as creative as I want to be. She also supports me when I need something. In the region, we have people who are constantly working on ways to highlight our mission so that people back home can see for themselves that we're doing our best for their loved ones. On a national scale, the USO is a household name. They constantly build relationships with other service-oriented organizations that share the same mission. They do so much for our servicemen and women. I'm just honored to say that I work for the USO. I try to be the best ambassador I can be. I have yet to work with someone I can't get along with, too. There are a lot of wonderful folks out here with me.

 
Jean-Felix Aristide

Jean-Felix Aristide

Duty Manager | USO Bagram, Afghanistan 

Hobbies: reading, traveling, exercising

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO team?

A I have always been directly involved with the USO, whether as a Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) representative for my unit back at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Fort Bliss (Texas), or while serving at Camp Casey, Korea, or volunteering and participating in USO-sponsored events at Conn Barracks (Germany). The USO has always been there for me as a soldier, so it was inevitable that I would become a full-fledged member of this great organization and continue the link of support that we provide to all our servicemen and women in uniform.

Q Can you tell us a little about your colleagues at the USO?

A I am extremely lucky to work with some of the most hard-working, dedicated people in the world who embody the USO mission every day as they strive to do their very best to uplift the morale of our servicemen and women.

Q What motivates you to come to work every day?

A The intimate knowledge and personal experience that what I do makes a great difference in the lives of our servicemen and women.

Q Have there been any defining moments for you at the USO?

A On January 2001, I flew from Incheon International Airport (South Korea) to Frankfurt International Airport (Germany) en route to my new duty station. I was supposed to be picked up at the Airport by my new unit rep, but upon landing in Frankfurt I found no one, so I wandered around the Airport understanding very little German and finding nobody to help me until I saw a USO sign blinking in the middle of all the other neons. I proceeded to the USO desk where I was welcomed with open arms, offered a warm cup of coffee, a comfort seat to relax, some snacks to savor while the angel behind the counter contacted my unit to let them know of my arrival.

 
Travis Sparks

Travis Sparks

Center Director | Camp LSA, Kuwait 

Alma Mater: United States Air Force

Q What do you enjoy most about working for the USO?

A I enjoy the camaraderie amongst my staff and the soldiers. Our USO does not feel like a job or a place of business. It's a place where we all enjoy ourselves as if we were all back home.

Q What motivates you to come to work every day?

A Knowing that my successes put smiles on the faces of our military members and their families, and knowing that my work is truly appreciated.

Q What does a typical day at the USO look like for you?

A A typical day at our USO consists of our volunteers dedicating their time to assist us with our mission servicing our transient troops with internet, phones, snacks and a variety of programs.

Q What is on the horizon for you at the USO?

A In my recent promotion to Center Manager I just want to focus on being the best Center Manager I can be. I want to make sure my people are well taken care of as well as the troops that we serve – not only our transient, but our permanent party command as well. I feel the more I'm in tune with those key people, the more we can accomplish here.

 
Tiffany Banks

Tiffany Banks

Center Manager | Camp Buehring, Kuwait 

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO?

A Our military's sacrifice often far exceeds the acknowledgement they receive. This is unfortunate. I became a member of the USO team because here I can show my gratitude. It is the dream position. It has been a dream to work alongside equally motivated individuals to bring light to the darkest environments. War isn't pleasant or ideal for anyone, especially troops, so it made perfect sense to work to provide "a home away from home" by serving in Southwest Asia.

Q Have there been any defining moments for you at the USO?

A This Memorial Day, USO Camp Buehring and USO sponsor BAE Systems hosted a Blackout 5K Run and Vigil. Weeks before the event, a monument of banners with the 6,400 Faces of the Fallen (from Iraq and Afghanistan) was erected in the center of camp. Just as the banners were raised a gentleman and his comrade passed by the display, one gentleman immediately spotted his friend's face and fell to his knees in tears. The Nightfall 5K and Vigil was an even more solemn, emotional and breathtaking event. We had about 1200 military personnel running, walking or marching in the darkness, lit only by glow sticks and reflector belts while a Black Hawk flew over the 3.2-mile route that ended at a breathtaking display of 6,400 luminary lights (reminiscent of a cemetery) spread across a large open field in the back of camp. At this field, a vigil was held including a static display of tanks and howitzers and a 21-gun salute. Words cannot fully describe its impact for the service members present and the families watching from home. It was an appropriate Memorial Day event that TRULY commemorated the Fallen. Only with the USO could a grandiose idea like this be developed and executed. For the troops, it was well-deserved.

Q Can you tell us a little about your colleagues at the Camp Buehring?

A The Buehring Staff is pretty much the DREAM TEAM!!!! Let me introduce them!!!

Dustin "the Mighty": He brilliantly manages all logistics for Buehring. He always upholds the integrity of the mission, works for the good of the team and thinks/operates 1,000 paces ahead. (He is a speedwalker. He is LITERALLY 1,000 paces ahead of us all)

Shea "the Entertainer": He brings an energy to our center that is unmatched. Often the host of our events, he makes everyone laugh with one of his quick jokes.

Jaime "the Brilliant": She is our Programs Manager and one of the most innovative individuals I know. Not only are her event ideas incredible, but the joy she brings to the events is fantastic!

Shannon "the Energetic": Each day the center is awakened by her smile and laughter. She brings good vibes in an otherwise barren and depressing space.

 
Bruce E. Burda

Bruce E. Burda

Regional Vice President Southwest Asia | Kuwait

Alma Mater: U.S. Air Force Academy

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO?

A I love the mission – and I wanted to get back to working directly with the military men and women and their families!

Q Have there been any defining moments for you at the USO?

A The WWE wrestlers performed on a cold November day in 2005 at Bagram AF, and they put on a great performance while dressed just like it was 80 degrees out, and they never complained, never hesitated. Vince McMahan and the whole WWE team were great and spent a lot of time with the troops – and I have never forgotten that.

Q Can you tell us a little about your colleagues throughout the Southwest Asia region?

A They are a gritty, hard-working, dedicated, compassionate, and cheerful group.

Q What is a typical day like at the USO?

A There isn't one! But every day includes talking with teammates, emails, reviewing special projects and ensuring personnel actions are on track.

 
Piper Hardin

Piper Hardin

Center Manager | Camp LSA, Kuwait

Other USO Locations Worked: USO Qatar

Q Can you tell us a little about your colleagues at the Camp LSA?

A I love my team! I have worked hard to be a good leader, learn from my team, learn from my own leadership style, and my team's responsiveness. Every team member brings something unique and different to the table. Together we reach goals, offer fun and innovative programs/events, and bring smiles to the faces of those around us. My team works well together, strives to help each other out, and believes in each other's abilities. They build friendships and camaraderie with the service members and really care about those deployed away from home.

I love hearing stories from my peers at Manager's Conferences, working with leadership, and now welcoming our new RVP of SWA, Bruce Burda. I do not feel alone out here. I know I am part of a team-oriented organization where we are all interested in what the other is accomplishing and cheering for certain success; because this success is everyone's success.

Q Have there been any defining moments for you at the USO?

A One of our volunteers emailed me after he left LSA to thank me for my caring nature and thoughtfulness. He said I saved his life and restored his belief in human nature. He had become very callous and negative from all the bad he's seen and experienced through his many deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and having someone to be so positive, accepting, patient, and willing to work with him helped him heal. I realized my attitude mattered to people and that I had the power to lift spirits or to tear them down, and I felt humbled and honored to be considered a bright spot at the crossroads of someone's life.

 
Frank Stinson

Frank Stinson

Center Manager | USO Shindand, Afghanistan

Hometown: Brinkley, AK

Q Why did you decide to become a part of the USO team?

A Worked with them while I was doing MWR in the Air Force and they seemed like they enjoyed their jobs

Q What does a typical day at the USO look like for you?

A Open up the tent AND THEN THE FUN BEGINS, answering all kinds of questions, pointing people in the right direction, cleaning the place because it is ALWAYS dusty in an old green tent. And then having fun with all of our customers.

Q What motivates you to come to work every day?

A Helping the military phone home and putting on all kinds of events to keep them having a GREAT TIME in a far away land.

Q What do you enjoy most about working for the USO?

A Job satisfaction.

 
Chase Stoeger

Chase Stoeger

Duty Manager | Kandahar, Afghanistan 

Q What's a typical day for you at the USO?

A Working as troop morale support in Afghanistan helps keep our "normal" days not so normal at all. While we have our everyday work activities that must get done we are also given the opportunity to have a little fun along the way. Our fun includes things such as hosting sports tournaments, developing in-center programs, simply bringing a smile to someone's face and everything in between.

Q Have there been any defining moments for you at the USO?

A The defining moment in my time with the USO was the first time I helped facilitate a soldier having a "Skype Baby." Being able to be a part of this special occasion was powerful because without our presence here in Afghanistan, the father would never have been able to experience this irreplaceable event.

Q What is on the horizon in your USO career?

A Since getting the opportunity to come over and serve with the USO in Afghanistan, I have felt like I found exactly where I am supposed to be at this point in my life. The next step in my USO career would be to go after a Center Manager position right here in Afghanistan and hopefully be able to positively affect a greater number of lives. From there who knows what's next, but one thing I do know is I will continue to support our troops in one form or another "Until Every One Comes Home."

 

Pacific

Paul Pisano

Paul Pisano

Director of Operations | Pacific Region

Hobbies: playing guitar, motorcycling, snorkeling (I will make the plunge for scuba diving this year.)

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO team?

A The USO offers me the opportunity to provide untethered service and support to the folks who need us the most: the soldiers, sailors, airmen and women, Marines, Coasties and their families. It's sinful, but I am having way too much fun doing my job … I wouldn't trade this for the world.

Q What motivates you to come to work every day?

A Knowing that my actions directly support our "frontline" employees and volunteers in their daily interaction with our patrons.

Q Can you tell us a little about your colleagues?

A The best way to describe my colleagues is as follows: If I was to draw a circle on a poster board, one colleague would see circle, another would see a boundary, another would focus on the area outside of the circle, yet another would populate it with additional things, and another would draw a smiley face. However, when it comes to supporting the USO Mission and caring for our patrons, my colleagues are in lockstep in providing the best support possible. I work with some of the greatest folk I have come to know. Our personalities and ages are as diverse as you could imagine, but we all mesh like a well-oiled machine. I mean everyone is welcomed and all "fit in." And while my colleagues all have different hobbies, tastes in music, clothing, and food, different senses of humor and different levels of education, the one thing we have on common is our dedication to supporting the USO Mission and Core Values. In all my professional life, I have not witnessed till now the amount of joy my fellow employees have when doing their jobs to support our Marines, sailors, airmen, soldiers, Coasties and their families … My colleagues are always smiling, and I am so thankful to be a part of this team.

Q What do you enjoy most about working for the USO?

A I thoroughly enjoy working with our employees and volunteers. I am grateful that I have had the wealth of experience as a retired veteran and MWR experience because I am able to share my lessons from those 37 years of experience with our employees. It's rewarding. Equally, I love volunteering – seeing the joy on our patrons' faces when the USO shows up at a barracks with a home-cooked meal, or a "Hello, how are you doing?" is totally awesome. It's truly a joy working with great people and serving our patrons.

 
Carly Harris

Carly Harris

Regional Vice President Pacific | MCAS Futenma, Okinawa, Japan

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO?

A The USO desperately needed volunteer tour guides, especially for free local "orientation" tours. I had experience guiding tours, knew the area, customs, culture, language and wanted to help active duty military newcomers and their families orient themselves to their host nation and feel comfortable with life "outside the gates."

Q What is a typical day like at the USO?

A Equal parts of collaboration with fellow USO teammates, unexpected "opportunities to excel" and non-stop multi-tasking all while striving to complete a single item on the day's "To Do" list ...

Q Can you tell us a little about your colleagues in the Pacific?

A The difficult they accomplish right away, the impossible takes them just a little bit longer.

 
LeRoy Kramvik

LeRoy Kramvik

Duty Manager | MCAS Futenma, Okinawa, Japan

Hobbies: golfing, fishing and reading

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO?

A After retiring from the Marine Corps I was looking for employment where I could continue to work with our men and women in uniform.

Q What is a typical day like at the USO?

A I spend time answering the many questions the troops have about upcoming events, local places to see, solving computer problems, listening to Marines tell me about their family back home…

Q Can you tell us a little about your colleagues at MCAS Futenma?

A Mr. Freddie Cotton is the Center Manager at Futenma USO, and my co-workers are Yoneko and Junko. We are a great team!

Q What is on the horizon for you at the USO?

A Being the same age as the USO makes me sort of old, but as long as I'm healthy I see no reason why I can't continue serving with the USO for a few more years.

 
Steve Murray

Steve Murray

Area Operations Manager | USO Korea Area Operations: Seoul

Q Has there been a defining moment for you at the USO?

A When the biggest, meanest-looking war fighter left the United Thru Reading® room crying because he missed his children so much. He gave me a hug and thanked me for giving him the opportunity to read to his children.

Q What do you enjoy most about your work?

A I spend my days making people happy. I never thought I'd have a job where telling jokes, cooking burgers, handing out cookies and just being a friendly face would be so rewarding.

Q Can you tell us a little about your colleagues in the Pacific?

A I have worked in four countries at seven USO Centers. I have managed some incredible people who left their families and the comforts of home to support our soldiers. It is truly a sign of character when someone gives up so much to help others.

 

United States

Robin Crouse

Robin Crouse

Center Director | USO Fort Hood 

Hometown: Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO team?

A As a military spouse I wanted to support my community – I wanted to be a part of something meaningful. That's why I chose the USO – to always be by their side lifting the spirits of America's troops and their families since 1941.

Q What motivates you to come to work every day?

A Waking up each morning in the greatest country in the world, I realize that the "American Dream" is provided by the brave men and women who choose to wear a uniform. I am humbled in their presence as they are unaware of their greatness and how they are writing our history books. They give so much and ask so little – they put their hopes and dreams on hold so that I may have mine, they endure long separations from their family and loved ones so I may spend holidays and special moments with my family in a safe country. Someone once said, "When you do what you love, you never work a day in your life." I do what I love and am honored to have the privilege to serve our troops and their families.

Q Have there been any defining moments for you while working at the USO?

A Watching the 4th Infantry Division showcase their colors to deploy to Iraq was a defining moment for me. I was so moved to see those young soldiers standing on the field at attention not knowing what to expect and knowing they would leave their families behind. They stood tall and proud to answer the call of a nation, and as emotional as it was, I knew my life was meant to serve our troops and their families.

 
Felice Gillum

Felice Gillum

Center Director | USO Gulf Coast

Alma Mater: University of Southern Mississippi

Q What do you enjoy most about working for the USO?

A I enjoy meeting and interacting with such a diverse group of individuals on a daily basis. There is never a day that I go home and don't feel good about the work that we do at the USO.

Q What motivates you to come to work every day?

A Knowing that on a daily basis, my actions make a positive difference in the life of someone that has proudly serve this country. It is truly an honor to be able to serve the troops and their families every day.

Q What does a typical day at the USO look like for you?

A There is really not a typical day at USO Gulf Coast. Every day is unique and brings a new set of challenges, rewards, and accomplishments. The one thing that does remain consistent from day-to-day is the pleasure of working with such a great staff, volunteers and wonderful patrons.

Q Have there been any defining moments for you at the USO?

A A defining moment for me was my first flight line deployment years ago. I had a wife and mother there that was pregnant and saying goodbye to her husband for the first time. Knowing that in the next few months her life would change dramatically and her spouse would not be there to see it all develop was extremely defining for me.I realized that with no family in the area, the USO would be her family for the next year.We would be there to provide her comfort, security and a smiling face in the absence of her husband.That experience helped bring great perspective to my career and everything that the USO stands for.

 
Joanie Thresher

Joanie Thresher

Director | USO South Carolina 

Hobbies: shopping, decorating

Q What made you decide to become a part of the USO team?

A Volunteering for USO GA and watching Mary Lou Austin, my mentor and President of USO GA., work her magic for troops and their families. Spending time in her centers and observing Mary Lou in the community helped me realize the USO is where I wanted to spend my time.

Q What motivates you to come to work every day?

A Knowing that I can make a difference!

Q What does a typical day at the USO look like for you?

A No two days at the USO are the same! The faces and needs of the troops are different every day. There are days we only see 25 troops and other days where we'll see several hundred troops, but for every troop we have the privilege meeting, the USO makes a difference.

Q Have there been any defining moments for you at the USO?

A True story … Met a young soldier that was stranded at the airport due to bad weather. The soldier didn't have any money for a hotel and our center isn't large enough to provide an area for sleeping. Fortunately we have a hotel partner that was willing to provide transportation, dinner, a room and a ride back to the airport the next day for free! As I walked the soldier out to catch his ride to the hotel he leaned over to give me a hug and said his mom always said he would meet an angel at the USO and that angel was me. As the story continued he shared that 18 years earlier he was born in a USO.

 
Courtney Anderson

Courtney Anderson

Mobile Unit Manager | All U.S. Regions

Other USO Locations Worked: USO Kuwait & USO Qatar, Southwest Asia

Q Can you tell us a little about your colleagues at the USO?

A They are a dynamic group of individuals! We all bring something different to the table, but work off of the strengths and weaknesses of one another to make sure we are delivering the best programs and services to the troops. We all have the same desire to fulfill the USO Mission to the best of our ability and are constantly striving to find new ways to improve the Mobile USO Program in our efforts to do so.

Q Have there been any defining moments for you at the USO?

A When working as a Duty Manager at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, I was on shift working with the United Through Reading Military Program. One young soldier kept hovering around the area, but wasn't signed up to read, so I started a conversation with him. He was really interested in the program and making a recording for his young children back at home, but he was worried because his reading skills were not very strong. I assured him that his children would be happy to see his face and to hear whatever story he could produce; I told him to just be goofy on the tape and to let his children know that he missed and loved him – everything he had just told me. After he had his turn, he came back out of the recording room looking much happier than when he had entered and said that he would be coming back to record another story before his unit moved on. It is times like this that I will remember most from my time overseas; how something so seemingly small, such as a conversation and a word of encouragement, can make such an impact.

 
Kari Burgess-Brown

Kari Burgess-Brown

Center Director | USO Fort Campbell, Kentucky

Hometown: Elbow Lake, MN

Q Why did you decide to become a part of the USO team?

A My brother-in-law deployed for the fourth time in February 2010 and I moved in with my sister a month later to help her care for their two daughters. No story about the first three deployments could prepare me for what it was actually like to live with a family while their Soldier is deployed. The day he was on the phone with us when they took mortar fire was terrifying; Kevin said, "I love you. Goodbye." And he hung up. Our Soldier made it home, but not everyone got to welcome home their loved ones. That was the moment I knew I needed to support Troops and Families.

Q What's a typical day for you at the USO?

A No such thing! Every day we deliver goodness and that is the only thing that is typical at the USO Fort Campbell.

Q Have there been any defining moments for you at the USO?

A I was working a table at a Kroger store this summer. As everyone came by, I asked them if they were familiar with the USO. I had lots of conversations with those that knew about us, and I educated a lot who didn't. When I asked one woman if she was familiar with the USO, she half nodded and half shook her head as she walked by. I watched her walk down the aisle, then turn around and come back. With tears in her eyes, she said, "Yes. I am familiar. My son died in Iraq and the USO was there for us." And then she whispered, "Thank you," and turned back to check out. We hear every day how our Soldiers loved the USO in Germany, or how the USO in Afghanistan was the only hard floor they stepped on for 11 months. For this woman, we were there in Dover when she needed us most. And she remembered what we did. People work an entire career and never know the impact they make in someone else's life. We understand it every single day.

 

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